A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen

MINISTERING GIFTS.

PREACHING is not the only spiritual gift bestowed within the church to serve and edify it. Ten gifts are named in the New Testament that are designed for the comfort and instruction of the body of Christ; these are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues. Each of these depends for its quality and exercise not upon the native ability of the individual upon whom it is bestowed, but upon the grace attending the measure of the gift of Christ in each member. But thirteen apostles are mentioned: the twelve to the Jews and the one, Paul, to the Gentiles. We believe there will never be any more apostles. They were men raised up and peculiarly gifted to a certain end: the setting in order of the church organization of the gospel dispensation. To them were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. This does not signify that they decided who should and who should not enter the kingdom of God, but they unlocked to the church certain principles of doctrine, of practice, of ordinances and of privileges, which they enjoined to be observed and contended for by the faithful in Christ Jesus. Also, they locked to the church or forbade the practice and advocating of certain other principles and practices. No man since their day has the right to add to, or take from, any other principles and practices which they did not enjoin, and still profess to be a preacher of the gospel and a servant of the household of faith. Should any man arise in this, or any other age, commanding to be observed and believed doctrines and procedures foreign to that of the apostolic order, “let him be accursed.” See Galatians i. 8,9. The new testament prophet is not a foreteller, a forecaster of events to come, but one who forth tells or brings forth out of the Scriptures, and out of the experience of the believer, that which edifies, exhorts and comforts. See 1 Cor. xiv. 3. The Scriptures are not exactly clear as to just what is the work and gift of an evangelist. The word evangelist literally signifies a “good angel or messenger,” therefore the bearer of good or glad tidings. An example of an evangelist is given us in Acts xxi. 8, in Philip of Caesarea. This Philip was one of the seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, who were appointed to look after the “business,” the temporal concern, of the church in Jerusalem. It is generally supposed that these men were the first deacons, though the word “deacon “ does not occur in Acts vi. It is certain, however, that they were not regarded as set apart to the ministry, but to “business,” yet this fact did not prevent Philip’s being an evangelist. If these men were deacons, then the work of an evangelist can be as well done by a deacon as by a preacher; that is, the gift of an evangelist would not necessarily have to be that of a pastor or teacher. We judge that in preaching to the eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza,'Philip was doing the work of an evangelist. Therefore we conclude that the special gift of an evangelist is manifested in a disposition to search out the isolated and lonely ones, the destitute and inquiring ones, and declare the glad tidings of the blessed name of Jesus unto them. This Philip did to the eunuch. Such work may be laid upon a deacon by the impression of the Spirit as well as upon a pastor. A pastoral gift is something apart from a preaching gift. An able preacher is not always a good pastor, and an able pastor does not always make a good preacher. The word “pastor” signifies “shepherd.” A pastor is not content to simply preach to his flock, but feels impressed to live among them and with them, to partake with them of such things as they have; he feels inclined to visit them in their homes and everyday life, and thus to have the oversight of them. Anything that causes or brings them grief and sadness saddens him; that which lightens and rejoices them also lifts him up. The sick in body or soul, the poor and needy, those sorely tried, are his peculiar burden, ever in his heart and mind. A teacher is an expounder of the Scriptures. A preacher may preach a good sermon to the comfort and edification of his hearers and yet not expound his text, not tell what it means. A teacher may tell what a text means and yet not especially comfort them, though he will not fail to instruct them. The gifts of miracles and of tongues, we believe, were in exercise in the apostolic church, and we know of no instance where they are being exercised in the church to-day. The apostles performed miracles on the bodies of believers by the same power that Jesus did the same works while here in the flesh. Peter and John healed a lame man, as is told in Acts iii. Peter raised Tabitha to life, as in Acts ix. Handkerchiefs and aprons from, Paul’s body healed the sick and cast out evil spirits, as in Acts xix. This gift to perform literal miracles is not given the church at the present time, so far as we have any knowledge. Miracles, and plenty of them, are transpiring on every hand, but they are not physical, as in the days of the apostle, so we believe. The gift given unlearned men to speak in other than their native tongues was bestowed upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost. There were in that congregation Jews out of every nation under heaven, all speaking different languages, but they heard the gospel that day each in his native tongue. This was the gift of tongues bestowed upon these who preached the gospel, which enabled them to declare the truth in the native languages of their hearers of different nationalities without having to learn those languages for themselves. Even in the church of that day diversities of tongues were not exercised unless an interpreter were present. No one could he edified unless he could understand what was being said. It is our belief that the gifts of miracles and of tongues are extinct in the church of the present day. Of course we might spiritualize these things and make them applicable to us now, but we do not care to do that in this article. It would cause us to digress into such a large field that we might not get back to our subject. The gifts of healings are manifested in effecting reconciliation between brethren who have fallen out with each other, in restoring those who walk disorderly, and in expounding the way of God more perfectly to those weak on some point, as did Aquila and Priscilla to Apollos. Helps are manifested in various ways, but always by the same Spirit as all these other gifts we have mentioned. There are those members we hear spoken of as being “such a help to the church.” They may be a “help” financially if sufficiently blessed in this world’s goods; they may be a “help” in their hospitality if given to keeping open house for the entertainment of their brethren. Then there are those who “help” the church with their clearness of vision, their sound and wise advice and counsel in troublous times, their discernment between right and wrong methods of procedure in attending to church business or in administering discipline. In every church of our faith and order there are always those who attend all the meetings with constant regularity and promptness; the pastor can always count on these being present, he the weather and conditions what they may; these are a help to the church; and certainly a help to him whose lot it is to labor among them in word and doctrine. Many times they uphold his weak hands and confirm his feeble knees when the tempter is well-nigh too much for him. Then there is the gift of government. Not all pastors and preachers are good disciplinarians. Discipline is a special gift, and falls under the head of government. Discipline hinges on love, as does all church order. The church Where love and fellowship abound is the orderly church, and the good disciplinarian is he whose discipline is rarely seen on the surface, but is felt in the hearts and souls of his hearers. The disciplinarian is never a boss, a dictator. There is no room for such in the new testament church. None of these gifts mentioned are lords over God’s heritage, they dominate not the faith of the hearers. Paul said, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Even the apostles counted themselves the servants of the church, not its lords and leaders. Leadership is all right for the world, but it will not endure in the church. Humility and not ambition must stamp the sincerity of the man of God. The religious world about us, as always, is ridden to death with priestcraft. We want none of it in the church. “He that is greatest among you, shall be your servant.” Whoever goes about aiming to straighten out church difficulties usually makes matters worse. One truly gifted to govern is rarely conscious of his ability, and does his most effective work innocently and unconsciously. In thinking of these various gifts in the church, let it be borne in mind that whatever gift is bestowed upon each member of the church (and there is none but has some gift), it is the gift that exercises the member, and not the member that exercises the gift. The spiritual ability which is of grace, and which is a measure of Christ, we call a “gift,” yet not only is this spiritual ability a gift, but the man himself is also a gift to the church. The Holy Ghost gave Paul to the church, and also endued him with an apostolic gift to serve the church, so both ‘the man and his ability were gifts to the church. All these gifts are bestowed, not to wander about at random, but are sent into certain fields prescribed by the Head of the church, Christ. Sometimes the direct leading of the Spirit will show a man where his gift must go; at other times certain things in providence will so come to pass as to bring the gift and field of labor in conjunction with each other. Sometimes a man may try to exercise his gift where the Spirit will not let him, and failure results. Paul wanted to preach in Asia once, but the Holy Ghost forbade it; he tried to go to Bithynia once, but the same Spirit hindered. He was called to Macedonia a place he had not intended going. The circumstance of his arrest and imprisonment ultimately led to his preaching the gospel in Rome. Certain it is that the Lord never calls a man to preach but he always has something for that man to preach, and somebody for him to preach to. The Lord does nothing by halves. When he begins a work, he finishes it. He does not give one of his people any gift whatsoever and they have to advertise it; eyes and ears are given to discern it. Usually the church discerns the gift before the subject himself is aware that he has it. The evidence that one is called to preach is that he preaches; that one is called to help is that he helps; that one is called to heal is that he heals. No matter what one may say or profess to be, it is by his fruits he must be known. The court of the Lord, before which all these gifts are judged, is the church. The saints shall judge angels. The church sees that this or that man has a gift to preach or to teach or to be a pastor, and so ordains him. She sees that this or that man is qualified for the deaconship, and so sets him apart. The man himself has nothing to do with it save to abide by the judgment of the church, and so serve in the capacity and with the ability given him of the Spirit. Happy are we if we can do so willingly, and if against our will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto us. The same gift is not intended to feed and comfort all alike. We are given a great diversity of gifts in the church to suit the diversity of experience found in the church. What comforts and instructs one may not do so to another. For this reason no one can tell a man where he ought to go or to whom he ought to preach. The stars are in the right hand of Him who is in the midst of the church, and he moves them about from place to place as it pleases him. Jesus Christ, who has ascended up on high to give these gifts, knows fully the character of each gift, and knows fully the character of those for whom it is intended, and he will in his own time and way bring the two together. Bringing the field to the laborer and the laborer to the field is not a matter of formality, but of vitality, and the relation of pastor to flock, or of any gift to its place, is a relationship that is as real and as vital as any other relationship which is ours while here on earth. The calling of a pastor by a church is never a matter to be conducted as a political campaign. Electioneering is entirely out of place, and ill consists with the spirituality of the church and of the matter at issue. A church in need of a pastor, deacon or other gift, does well to consider the matter carefully and prayerfully. Watch the leading of the hand of the Lord and the direction of his Spirit; they will never guide wrong. Our own schemes invariably lead astray. Uzza reaped death in trying to steady the ark, so do we always die when we try to do the Lord’s work or help him in it. The works of the flesh involve death, the works of the Spirit are life and peace. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” 

Written at the request of one, a brother in the ministry, who wishes his name withheld. L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts
Editorial

Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 24
December 15, 1914